12th April, 2020
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has defended his action in arresting two pilots of Caverton Helicopters and 10 passengers, saying the company had frequently violated his executive order on the Coronavirus lockdown by previously flying 220 passengers into the state.
He accused the Federal Government of playing politics with the issue by sponsoring articles in the newspaper against the Rivers State Government.
Wike spoke through Paulinus Nsirim, Commissioner for Information and Communication, who said “The case in point is the promotion and sponsorship of a misleading narrative on the arrest of two pilots and 10 passengers of Caverton Helicopters by the Ministry of Aviation.”
“Contrary to the view being peddled by the Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, the two pilots of Caverton Helicopters and their 10 passengers were not arrested because they operated a permit granted them by the Ministry of Aviation.
“They were arrested because they constantly contravened the Executive Order issued by the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, which requires that everyone coming into the state for essential duties subject themselves to mandatory health checks to ascertain their coronavirus status .
“Before their arrests, the Rivers State Government issued several warnings to Caverton and other operators to ensure that their pilots and passengers are tested by Rivers State Health Authorities. Caverton Helicopters disregarded the warnings.
“At the last count, Caverton Helicopters flew over 220 passengers into the State without allowing health professionals of the Rivers State Government ascertain their coronavirus status. They also refused to avail the State Government their contacts, so they can be traced and tested,” he said.
He further said that Rivers State Government remained committed to the protection of the over six million citizens of the state.
Nsirim said the government was not struggling to issue landing permits to airlines, “neither are we contending for the control of the air space. Therefore, the issue on ground has nothing to do with the Exclusive List.”
He said that the focus of the Rivers State Government was to ensure that nobody under the guise of transporting workers on essential services, flew persons who would compromise the state’s health system.
“Therefore, these pilots and passengers must be subjected to health checks before they carry out their responsibilities. That is standard practice.
“The Federal Government as we speak, has quarantined Chinese Doctors who are in the country on invitation of the operators of Exclusive List. These Chinese Doctors will be isolated for 14 days as a precaution before they mix with Nigerians.
“If the Federal Government has done that in Abuja for Chinese officials that they invited, why do they insist that persons coming into Rivers State must enter the state without health check? What are they hiding?“ He queried.